When passengers get out of the train, they usually recognise a bicycle-friendly city by the number of bicycles parked by the entrance of the station. There is no need to say that Ghent is one of those.
Copenhagenize Design Co. works hard to analyse and showcase the Top 20 large bicycle-friendly cities in the world for the Copenhagenize Index. But some smaller cities, with less than 600,000 inhabitants deserve to be highlighted for their ambitious measures in favor of urban cycling. Ghent, a Belgian city of around 250,000 inhabitants is one of them.
New Circulation Plan Makes Space for Bicycle Users
The new circulation plan, implemented in April 2017, was the outcome of a two-year process where the City of Ghent sought to strengthen an existing sustainable mobility policy and to give back the streets to people. The plan was inspired by the Van Der Berg traffic circulation plan implemented in Groningen, the Netherlands in the 1970s.
The Groningen’s plan divided the city-centre into four sections, forcing car drivers who travel from one section to another to take the city’s inner ring-road, instead of driving through the local streets. This measure aimed to make motorists’ circulation more complicated and to promote other modes of transportation, like cycling.
“A pro-bicycle plan must have some anti-car measures” – Filip Watteeuw
Ghent took this approach a step further by enlarging the city’s pedestrian area and creating six distinct sections with no automobile accessibility between them without using the ring-road.
Prior to the implementation of the plan, the City of Ghent recorded that 40% of its rush hour car traffic was due to through traffic – cars not even beginning or ending their journeys in Ghent, but merely passing through. The plan aims to controlling this traffic and thereby improve local streets and enhance urban life.
“You can’t become a cycling city, if you don’t say something about cars. In order to increase the number of cyclists and develop a bicycle culture, it’s necessary to take some anti-car measures. If we get rid of the through traffic, you get fewer cars, more space for pedestrians and cyclists, and infrastructure gets an extra value” asserts Filip Watteeuw.